Prologue: ‘Six’

It was autumn. The faint remains of a summer sky hung like a painted ceiling. The walls were half naked trees, decorated with the orange finger paint smudges of a class full of school children. Anna’s own fingers were pink; she had been working on her butterfly just moments before her Nana picked her up at precisely quarter past three. On Thursdays Anna was picked up from school by her Nana, who took her on the fifteen minute walk down to the allotment. Today they would be picking carrots. Anna stopped stiff.
“Nana? Nana? Nana!” She held her pink fingered hand in the direction of the cars rushing by, “You have to hold my hand when we cross the road.”
“Yes, Anna dear, you’re quite right. It’s far too dangerous for me to cross the road with no-one to look after me.” Her Nana’s eyes twinkled, enjoying the joke to herself. Anna’s eyes were a deep brown, quite different to her Nana’s vibrant blue.  Anna, bemused, wrapped her hand around two of her Nana’s aged fingers, whose attention was wholly engaged now, with spotting a gap in the traffic.
Anna collected herself and skipped across the road, with her Nana in tow and began to inform her of the vital details of her day. First hour on a Thursday was maths, Anna had mastered her ten times, five times and two times tables but an hour later she had struggled enormously with spelling words such as fry, frill, friend and front. Lunch hour had only just begun when Anna and her Nana arrived at the allotment. The situation with the Cooper boy and the last jam tart was forgotten completely when Anna laid her young eyes on the little green fountains that poured out of the ground.
“Are they ready Nana? Are you sure?” her eyes widened with delight.
“Yes Anna my love, quite sure” she turned her own gaze to her small patch on the allotment “why don’t you give that one a tug?” she pointed to the tiniest fan of fresh green leaves in the closest corner of the square of earth. Anna prepared herself like an expert; she placed her feet wide apart and bent low to the ground. She clutched her little hands around the bunch of leaves and took a breath, then pulled. Despite her expertise she lost her grip and fell backwards. For a moment, she sat with her legs spread in front of her and her mouth softly shaped into a round ‘O’. She looked up to her Nana’s warm face and they both chuckled. “Let’s try one of my hands and one of yours shall we?” Nana bent down now, with much less of an air of expertise and wrapped one coarse hand around the green leaves, Anna followed suit and together they pulled. Out of the ground a large, round, vibrant orange carrot was born.
“Yes dear”
“Don’t you think it’s funny that the carrot grows underground? It’s almost as if they don’t want to be seen and pulled and had for dinner?”
The old lady chuckled and met her granddaughter’s inquisitive eyes with a waterfall of affection. Anna giggled.
“Oh my, would you look at the sky? I’d say that there was a thunderstorm on the way?” Anna, who had been humming to herself absently, turned abruptly to her Nana, all delight empty from her round face.
“Oh no! Really? Can we please get home quickly Nana?”
“My dear,” her voice thick with warmth, “thunderstorms are nothing to be afraid of.”
Anna clapped her hands to her ears. “Yes they are! They’re loud and the sky flashes!” She attached herself to her Nana’s trouser leg and whimpered in a small voice, but her Nana peeled her away and reached for a muddy, little, green stool. Lowering herself carefully to sit on the stool, the grown lady sat like a frog perched with her knees bent as high as her sloping shoulders.
“Shall I tell you a secret about thunderstorms my love?” Anna said nothing, but nodded tentatively. “When the sky roars it’s because the Sun wants to be sunny and the Rain wants to fall and they’re arguing. When they get really angry, the sky flashes because the Sun is furious. It rains because the Rain is crying with frustration. It’s nothing to be scared of little Anna. The sky isn’t going to hurt you, they’re only having a little talk about what weather to make your world the following day.”
Anna considered her Nana’s words for a moment; her face screwed up as she evaluated her Nana’s explanation. It did make sense, it accounted for the roars, the rain and the flashing sky. Her features relaxed, “Oh.” but then she twisted her face up in thought again, “So, what makes the thunderstorm end?”
“One of them wins of course! They argue all night sometimes, but eventually someone will win. If the Sun wins then the following day will be sunny if the Rain wins the following day will be cloudy and wet.” Anna nodded, as if she had always known this and she was confirming her Nana’s suspicions. “Who do you think will win tonight then, Anna?”

Once more, Anna’s brow creased with thought “the Sun, yes, definitely the Sun.”


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